World Christianity attracts attention from a wide array of scholars, including theologians and religious studies scholars. However, do these approaches communicate with each other? Should they? Or may a hardening of disciplinary and conceptual boundaries be expected, and even preferred? The principal problem informing this article is an abiding dichotomy between theology on the one hand and religious studies approaches on the other. From our perspective, the question is whether theologically oriented research in world Christianity can be of value across the academic spectrum. Or are theological studies conceptually confined by the walls of their own normative commitments? The authors argue that maintaining an open threshold between different disciplines in the study of “other” expressions of world Christianity is important and that this may require that theologically rooted researchers adopt what the philosopher of religion D. Z. Phillips calls a “hermeneutics of contemplation.” In an important book on the subject, Phillips—addressing religious studies scholars rather than theologians—identifies theology with what he terms the “hermeneutics of recollection,” and secular theories of religion with the “hermeneutics of suspicion.” When the latter approach is shown to fall short of doing justice to religious complexity, Phillips posits the “hermeneutics of contemplation” as a more appropriate response to the religious other. We ask whether the reverse may also hold true for theologians, namely, a shift in disposition from a hermeneutics of recollection to contemplation? To ground the theoretical discussion, reference is made to research on the theme of rain rituals and prayers.

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